ACSME 2017 Wrap-up

Well, time to get this ball rolling! For the past few days I have been in Melbourne attending the Australian Conference on Science and Mathematics Education (ACSME) and I wanted to share some of the experience and perhaps give a bit of insight to those who haven’t had the opportunity to attend events like these before. I know many of you are eager for Japan updates but I first had to arrive and get some interesting stories to tell! I used the lengthy flight from Sydney to Narita, Japan to get down some of my thoughts as I find these are the great times for reflection and planning (and for watching a multitude of movies!). But, onto the content!

Conferences are one of the most valuable professional development environments for educators available. They bring together like-minded individuals from within a research area, providing an environment to share ideas and stories for the community to continue growing. Recently I attended the Australian Conference for Science and Mathematics Education (ACSME) at Monash University, Melbourne (I should add, sponsored by Taroona High School!). ACSME in its current form is relatively young (formerly the UniServe Science Conference) having started in 2011.

ACSME in particular holds importance to me as it was the first opportunity I had to engage with a large number of peers in my field (chemistry education) when I first attended in 2013. While there are a large number of teaching-focused academics within the University of Tasmania, I was the sole postgraduate student undertaking research into chemistry education; a daunting challenge to undertake. When I attended ACSME I was fresh-faced, enthusiastic, and very nervous. To meet authors of the literature I had read, engage with students going through the same challenges I faced (we numbered 3 PhD students and 1 Honours student), and present my work to experts, was extraordinary.

Back to the present, this year was above and beyond my expectations (approx.. 190 attendees!). Whether from the break in attending conferences, or the altered perspective from finishing my PhD and starting teaching at a secondary school, it was an excellent time. From the very outset, we were presented with an inspiring opening from the recently appointed Dean of Science (Monash), Jordan Nash.

An inspiring teacher makes all the difference.

Simple, but words with incredible meaning for myself and no doubt most of you. I’m planning to explore some of the key topics or issues raised at ACSME this year in further blogs but as a teaser here are some of them!

  • The link – or lack of – between being a good teacher/presenter and being an educator
  • The struggle for students to engage with new or unfamiliar teaching approaches
  • The gap in the transition from secondary to tertiary education
  • Dealing with failure in science

Finally, Associate Dean of Teaching (Monash) Dr Chris Thompson, closed the conference with a powerful statement on the current and future state of science and mathematics education in the tertiary sector:

The lecture is dead, the focus is on employability post-degrees, reflection is the new black, and we must communicate with students to find their needs. 

I suppose the message I want to leave is one for fellow educators. These kinds of opportunities are gold mines for both newly qualified educators and long-time practitioners. I know I’ll be aiming to inspire some of my colleagues from Taroona High to aim for these experiences. If you would like further information on this particular conference please head to http://www.acds-tlcc.edu.au/events/acsme/.

Coming soon… Japan adventures for Days 1 and 2! #astajapan for those interested in following on Twitter or Instagram.

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